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A strategic approach to cloud integration

Rob Fox, Vice President, Application Development, Liaison Technologies | Aug. 5, 2013
The ability to transfer and translate data seamlessly and quickly in real-time is crucial to business success, but integrating, transforming and managing critical business applications and data is proving to be a complex challenge for organizations across the globe. To facilitate streamlined movement of enterprise data across diverse applications, a growing number of organizations are turning to cloud-based integration. This approach reduces complexity and IT oversight, and frees up resources to focus on delivering products and solutions to customers and partners.

The complexity extends beyond just connecting to the APIs themselves. Enterprises must also consider how data that comes from a SaaS application will be translated into an on-premise system, and factor this into the complexity calculus for the integration project. Additionally, most APIs are not stagnant, but change over time, adding yet another layer of complexity to integration.

It is also important to think beyond the first integration project. Any single cloud integration can prove daunting on its own and many enterprises fall victim to tunnel vision. Instead of adopting strategies and protocols that scale for projects down the line, they end up limiting themselves to those narrowly suited to an individual project. Many businesses make the mistake of thinking it will be easy to add one cloud service at a time and don't anticipate the inevitable complexity of integrating multiple providers over time. This narrow approach faces the same fragility and rigidity of a traditional point-to-point data integration approach, namely, the more "end points" you add, the more difficult and complex it becomes to manage and maintain.  

Avoiding the pitfalls of this siloed approach to integration projects is critical, and businesses must build out an explicit integration sourcing strategy as early as possible in the cloud adoption process. The reality is that, while cloud services for both back-office systems and B2B processes can offer tremendous efficiencies, achieving these efficiencies requires a high level of coordination and integration. The more cloud providers an enterprise uses, the more complex this coordination and integration becomes. Organizations need to develop a cohesive sourcing strategy for integration, whether that means a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach using on-premise software, a DIY approach using an integration Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or outsourcing integration entirely to a third party integration brokerage provider.

When determining which avenue will be most efficient, consider the following:

(1) Is integration a required internal core competency? For some enterprises, having in-house integration capabilities is important for commercial or other essential business reasons. Recognizing this early and proactively building out the staff and resources needed to efficiently manage and complete integration projects is essential.

(2) Should integration be a CAPEX or OPEX expense? The increasing complexity of cloud integration projects means that building out an internal team will require a capital investment in expert personnel and software. For some organizations, this relatively fixed capital expenditure may be a better use of resources, even though it requires greater up-front investment. For others, such a capital expenditure may not be feasible or efficient. For these enterprises, outsourcing projects to an integration broker allows the function to occur as a regular operating expense, reducing or eliminating the up-front cost, and providing a more regular cost-structure.


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